South Shore Anchors Release – Paul Pegher
South Shore Rugby is thrilled to welcome Tadhg Leader as the head coach of the Anchors, the club’s Division 2 men’s side. A current member of the New England Free Jacks and USA Eagles, Leader brings years of experience as both a coach and player.
As noted in his Free Jacks bio and his 2020 DJCoil Rugby player article profile, the Galway native represented Ireland at the Under-19 and Under-20 levels before making multiple appearances for Connacht A in the British and Irish Cup before moving to Italy to play for club Rugby Badia ASD. His Eagles profile adds that in 2017, Leader captained and coached the St Louis Royals to a National Championship before joining San Diego Legion in 2018 as captain for the inaugural Major League Rugby season. There, Leader finished the season as the team’s top scorer and led his side to appearances in the first-ever MLR Playoffs. In early 2019, Leader earned his first cap with the Eagles (15s) against Chile in the Americas Rugby Championship 2019. He also scored his first try off the bench within moments of his debut.
Rory Barratt, president of South Shore Rugby, says, “We’ve always strived to give the members of this organization the best, and Tadhg is a huge step in that direction. From our earliest conversations about this possibility, it was clear to me that Tadhg is the right individual at the right time for the Anchors. I’m certain he will make us all better rugby players, and hopeful that his role will encourage more players to join the club.”
As the Anchors’ new coach, Leader steps into the role previously served by Ken Esterhuizen, who recently stepped down to focus on his personal and professional obligations. Widely respected and admired by the South Shore Rugby membership, “Coach Ken” was instrumental in the Anchors’ growth and success over the last few years and he will always be considered a dear member of the Anchor family.
We caught up with Coach Tadhg to get his thoughts on the Anchors and his approach to coaching…
South Shore Rugby: The Anchors are coming off a strong 2019 season, in which we went 7-0 in NERFU Division 2. What are your assessment of the team and the organization?
Tadhg Leader: The Anchors are a talented team with a lot of potential. Having coached St. Louis to a national championship four years ago, I know what it takes to get there, and there is no reason why we can’t do that with the Anchors.
But this organization is doing a lot more than just winning. There’s something special going on here. I’ll always remember my first encounter with South Shore Rugby–a cold rainy day in April 2019. The Anchors were visiting the Wolfhounds for the NERFU playoffs. I was on the sidelines, helping to coach the Wolfhounds, and I remember looking across and just being amazed at the number of Anchors fans on their side–the women’s team, the old boys, and family members. I hadn’t ever seen that in club rugby in the U.S. before, and I thought, geez, that’s more than just a rugby team. That’s a club with a real ethos and connectivity. It reminded me of the clubs we have back in Ireland, and I’m proud to join in that tradition here.
Tell us about your coaching philosophy. What have you learned over the years?
Having played professionally in Ireland, Italy, and the U.S., I’ve been fortunate to learn from some amazing coaches, and much of what I do as a coach is influenced by them. Club coaches here in the U.S. are passionate about the sport, but in many ways, they’re still doing things that we were doing in Ireland 20 years ago. The U.S. likes its smashmouth rugby, and there is a time and place for that style and we will cover that. But I believe it’s important to be holistic in our training–to build our situational awareness of the game. I also think it helps that I have played fly-half for the past 10 years. It’s a position that requires you to be curious and analytical about what’s happening on the pitch. So I have an eye for how the different aspects of the game–between forwards and backs, set pieces and phases–all come together.
How do you approach and train a senior D2 men’s team?
Firstly, the team is in a fantastic place thanks to the work done by Kenneth. My aim is to challenge the players and get them outside their comfort zones, and to scale up the skills of the individuals in running, passing, and space identification. At the same time, we will develop team cohesiveness and strategies for game management, for determining the situational aspects of each phase, and improving our individual and collective decision-making skills in both attack and defense. We are going to train hard, but I am also committed to making our sessions a fun, inclusive environment for the Anchors and the other teams in the South Shore Rugby organization. Overall I’m itching to get started and can’t wait to meet everyone in the coming weeks!
And speaking of situational awareness, watch Tadhg Leader drop the ball in just the right place for the San Diego Legion back in 2018…